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West Indies, The

When George III was confronted by the possibility of rebellion in his Thirteen American Colonies he was for a long time undecided whether to let those Colonies go by default in order to maintain hold on his West Indian islands, or to let the islands go in order to keep hold of the Colonies; he and Lord Bute believed that they could not hold both. George was personally in favor of holding the islands because he received a larger revenue from them, and like many other Englishmen considered them a more valuable possession than the Colonies. We find it impossible now to understand that point of view, because in histories of the United States the West Indies are almost wholly ignored, which is strange because they were in 1775 a Golconda for Europe, and in them the three great Powers, Britain, France, and Spain, had an American base in which each grew rich and from which each expected to launch out in campaigns for seizing the whole continent. (So many Londoners came to the West Indies for a few years and then returned home that at one period the old Lodge of Antiquity was named West Indies Lodge, and had to incorporate in its by-laws a provision to limit the number of decisions from that region.)

Historians of American Freemasonry also omit the West Indies from their panorama of origins and events, and with even less justification, because the West Indies played a larger role in the beginnings of the Craft in America than any other influence second only after Britain (including Ireland)--among other things we might never have had the Scottish Rite had it not been for them! In his Ancient Documents relating to the A. and A. Scottish Rites (Philadelphia; 1915; page 2) Bro. Julius F. Sachse writes:

" This intercourse with the French Brethren in St. Domingo increased to such an extent that after several Lodges had been erected under the Jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania a Provincial Grand Warrant was issued to govern the Lodges in the West India Islands. This was the only warrant of this kind ever issued by the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania." It was through connection with these and other Lodges in the West Indies that 80 large a number of French Masons visited Lodges in America or demitted to them, bringing their ideas of French Masonry with them oftentimes among which was the idea of an Adoptive Rite, of which the Order of the Eastern Star is an echo. On the same page Bro. Sachse continues:

"Shortly after receiving his patent in Paris, Stephen Morin sailed for America and established a Lodge of Perfect and Sublime Masons at St. Domingo. It is from this body that our certificate [i.e., one in possession of the G. L. of Pennsylvania bearing Morints named emanates and through whom the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite was established in the Western world. " This certificate was dated October 26, 1764. Morin's patent from the Council of the Emperors of the East and West at Paris was dated August 27, 1761. It empowered him to confer 25 Degrees in seven classes, beginning with Entered Apprentice and extending to Sovereign Prince of Masonry.

(NOTE if the Degrees which the French described as "Scottish" be compared with Masonry as it was being practiced in Scotland at a corresponding period date by date, it will be seen how un-Scottish the "High Grades; were. The control, pressure, and influence of the ancient Operative craft Masonry lasted longer in Scotland than in either England or Ireland. The "Scottish" Degrees are French in their inception practices, titles spirit. Once it was translated to America which is the cradle of the A. & A. S. R. as (now is, the Rite did not seek to exercise any control over the first three Degrees.)

Louisiana was another gate-way through which West Indies Masonry came into America. The first Lodge was founded by French refugees, mostly from Guadeloupe, who organized Parfaite Union, No. 29, under a South Carolina Charter in 1794.

In the same year another group of French refugees obtained a Charter from the Provincial Grand Lodge at Marseilles (the Grand Orient was temporarily suspended); it was dated in 1796; the Lodge was constituted as La Parfaite Sincerite in 1798. It was reconstituted as Polar Star Lodge by the Grand Orient in 1804, and worked the French Rite. A Lodge was Chartered by Pennsylvania in 1804. Refugees from Santo Domingo organized a Lodge in 1806. In 1807 Polar Star Lodge opened a chapter of Rose Croix. Refugees from C:uba opened a Lodge in 1805. Another, and a refugee Loge, was opened by the French in 1809. (A detailed account is given by Bro. F. Gayle in Gould's History of Freemasonry; 1936; Vol. V; page 238.) For almost a half century after 1775 the influence of West Indies Masonry (of American, French, British, or Scottish origin) made itself felt through personal visits and through the channels of trade along the east coast from Philadelphia south, and from New Orleans east in the Gulf of Mexico. ID the same period there was always a center of West Indies Masonry (mostly French) in Stew York City, and the fact helps to explain the rapid spread of Cerneauism. The Masonry of the islands also made itself felt among seamen, especially among sea captains, of whom 60 many were made Masons in both American and English port Lodges and who were so often on regular duty runs in the Caribbean. (For subsequent Masonic history of the Islands see Gould's History; 1936; [consult index]; and the Foreign Correspondence Reports in the Proceedings of the Grand Lodge of New York from 1920 to 1940.)

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